I’ve been shooting recently with the new Nikon Coolpix P7000 compact camera. While I have used other cameras as well, I’ve spent more time with the compact than anything else. I’m pretty happy with the results, especially given the fact that I don’t know the new camera that well.
During the course of using this camera it dawned on me that you can indeed get professional results from a compact camera.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does contain enough information to help most people get great shots from compacts.
1. Stay away from digital zoom. Whether it’s the Nikon P7000 I am testing or any other compact camera, turn off the digital zoom. It’s never the way to go. If you need more focal length than you currently have, crop in post rather than using digital zoom in the camera. One of the things I like about the new Coolpix P7000 is the effective focal length of 200mm on the long side.
2. Read your manual. Compact cameras often have many professional features that are hidden in nested menus. If you don’t spend the time really getting to know your compact camera you might be missing out on some of its most powerful features. There are tons of features in the P7000 for instance that I wouldn’t have known about without having access to the manual – or to product engineers who know the camera backwards and forwards 🙂
3. Use a tripod. I usually use a tripod when using my flagship Canon or Nikon DSLRs. Why not use a tripod when shooting a compact? While it may not be as convenient, the HDR shots I made recently at the Grand Canyon came out way better than they would have had I not used a tripod. Tripods slow you down and force you to be more contemplative and deliberate. Those facts help you produce better images.
4. Shoot in the same modes you would if you were using a DSLR. Most compacts have the ability to shoot in manual mode, aperture priority or shutter priority mode. In my experience a vast majority of serious photographers shoot in one of those three modes. Pick one of those when using a compact.
5. Use off-camera flash when you need flash. While many compacts come with a built-in popup flash, this is best used as a trigger for those who are serious about off-camera strobes and provide professional-looking results.
6. Shoot advanced shots with the compact too. Why not shoot HDR or multiple images for stitched panoramas? How about macro? Many compacts feature excellent macro modes. Just because it’s a compact camera doesn’t mean you can’t do the cool tricks like HDR or panos.
7. Don’t forget the video. The newer compacts (especially those in the $400 to $500 range) offer HD video. Some, like the P7000 even offer advanced options like an external mic jack for recording high-quality audio.
For some people, a serious compact is all the camera they will ever need. In some cases it’s all the camera they can afford. Lastly, some people just prefer not to drag all the heavy gear that seems to come with shooting a DSLR. In all of these cases, a good compact camera can indeed produce pro results. My final piece of advice is simple. If you want to get pro results from your compact camera – treat it like a pro camera.